Lent 1 yr A, 2023 Lent is a time for retreat. Not just for your priest who has much to vision and reflect on, nor just as a Christians who have been marked with the sign of the cross in the oil of baptism and with the ash of mortality.  Nor as a society which can get overwhelmed by the amount of depressing news that surrounds us. A retreat is appropriate in this season of lent because lent is a time of self examination and prayer.  A time to take a good long look at one’s self and our relationship with God, it is a time to prepare our selves, our souls for the journey with Christ to the cross and beyond to resurrection.  A retreat doesn’t have to be a week in a monastery , or climbing Tibetan mountains.  To retreat can simply be taking time to be focused on your relationship with God, and we get a great example of this in Christs ministry. Jesus often took time apart…we read over and again phrases such as… ”in the morning while it was still dark, he arose and went out and departed to a lonely place to pray.” Mark 1:35 “he sent the disciples ahead of him and departed to the mountain to pray Mark 6:46 “he departed to a lonely place; and the multitudes were searching for Him and came to Him and tried to keep Him from going away from them” Luke 4:42 and of course today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel a 40 day retreat in the silence of the wadis…the scrubby, rocky deserts of Israel, with no company but the goats who graze and the sun which scorches. Jesus faced pressures, responsibilities and demands that none of us can even imagine, and one of the ways that Jesus, fully human as well as divine, could do this was because he continually fostered his relationship with God.  Jesus spent time…alone, in silence, in prayer allowing space for God’s voice to heard amidst a crowded and demanding life which continually pressed upon him. This time in the wilderness was the beginning of Jesus ministry, it was the way that he prepared for the momentous task ahead of him.  Through prayer and silence, though fasting and meditation Jesus grounded his relationship with God in preparation for his ministry…and at the end of 40 days.  When he was most vulnerable…there came the temptations.   Temptations which are different for Jesus then for many of us, but always they appear in the shape of that which would appeal most.  The shape of things we could do, but shouldn’t do.  The ways in which we could cut corners or get a bit extra for ourselves. For Christ, his temptation was more to do with shall I accomplish all these things the easy way or the hard way.  Do I do what I want? or await God?  What do I chose…who do I trust? Though many of us will not face equivalent tests, we do all still encounter our own temptations and in the midst of retreat or time spent intentionally with God we seem to be the most vulnerable and temptations seem to manifest more frequently. This is true regardless of whether our retreat is 40 minutes or 40 days, and the temptations that most of us face in the midst of our retreats, are not dramatic one on ones with the devil personified, but rather one on ones with ourselves.     C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters which follow the advice an experienced tempter gives to a devil in training.  The purpose of temptations, Screwtape the senior devil writes, is to keep the person in question from experiencing God and the best way he recommends is with simple distractions.  Distractions are one of the strongest temptations that we encounter, minute by minute, when we attempt to retreat into time with God. Screwtape, the senior tempter tells his trainee anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do.  You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, …, staring at a dead fire in a cold room.” Something that I’d guess most of us have experience at one point or another.  Having committed to accomplishing something we soon realize that 30 minutes have gone by and we haven’t even twitched.  I know myself and my own temptations well enough to know that I have to plan for them. My habits, all our habits, are hard to break…I do need my phone near by in case of truly important calls, but it is inevitable that the thing will buzz or beep just as I start praying, and long established habit will have me reaching for the phone and spending the next 30 mins watching videos of nothing before I realize. As I try to sit comfortably and breath, I will notice the carpet needs vacuuming.  Or that I’m quite tired and should nap instead.  Or my dog will come for a snuggle and off I go. I know that these are just a few of the temptations that I will face.  So, I know I will have to plan for them if I am to truly benefit from my retreat and I know I will truly benefit from and enjoy this time with God, if I can remain focused for the first little bit. In our own way, each of us struggle to enter into time with God and each of us struggle with the temptations that we encounter as we try to take time apart.  There are always going to be people who phone, dishes needing to be done, books that entice us, pillows that call our name. Throughout lent, and throughout the year really…God calls to us, seeking to deepen relationship with us, calling us away from our distractions to spend time with our closest friend and most loving parent.  God knows and we know that it isn’t always easy especially when you start…which is why we need to retreat, spend intentional time with God.  To, practice!.  Even if it isn’t physically going away…we can retreat from answering the phone, we turn our eyes from tasks that need doing, we put away the books and turn off the tv so that we are in a space where we can focus on God. It is always worth it and it always gets easier with time and practice. We read that after the devil left Jesus and had given up that one attempt, for there are always others, angels came and ministered to him.  When we retreat into a space with God, the temptations will, if we put forth the effort, go away…for a time…and we will hear God. In lent we are all encouraged to take the time and make the preparations and the effort to retreat with God, just as Christ did.  So that we can be centered and deepened in our faith, so that we can be prepared for the joy that is Easter and the challenges that we face each day.   We all need time to retreat.  Time to cast into the deep waters of our faith.  To deepen our relationship with God so that our faith itself will be more than superficial.             We all know how writing letter, making phone calls and taking time to visit deepens the relationships we have with our friends.  How if you just nod in the hallways or listen to what others tell you of someone, your understanding of that individual will be quite superficial.  It is the same with God.  If we simply give God the nod now and then, if we only ever listen to what other have to say about God without engaging in discussion ourselves then we are only ever going to touch the surface of our faith.             Yet when we journal, pray, meditate, read scripture, engage in times of retreat it is like heading to Tim’s with an old friend.  You spend time deepening your relationship and knowing and sharing all the detail and depth of your life.  You move from acquaintance to life long intimacy.  The kind of intimacy Christ developed with God that allowed him to move from calling God…LORD…to calling God, papa.             In lent we take a journey, we deepen our relationship with our papa so that come Holy Week we too can be there grieving the cross and overflowing with joy at the resurrection.  So that we too can be intimately connected to God, to Christ, to the Spirit…all our lives.  Like all good relationships… it takes time and effort.  But it is always worth it.             amen